WASHINGTON — Military officials who publicly questioned the investigation of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s death are finding that the action has affected their careers.
On April 3, 1996, an Air Force jet carrying Brown and 34 others on a trade mission to Croatia crashed into a mountainside. Last December, allegations first surfaced about the ensuing investigation.
Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a forensic pathologist assigned to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, alleged that a circular hole found at the very top of Brown’s head resembled a .45-caliber gunshot entry wound and should have prompted an autopsy. No autopsy was conducted. Cogswell participated in the investigation but was at the crash site when Brown’s body was being examined in Delaware.
After Cogswell’s concerns were made public, another AFIP pathologist, Army Lt. Col. David Hause, came forward to concur that the wound looked like a gunshot and should have prompted an autopsy. Hause examined the wound on Brown’s head after it was discovered during an external probe of the corpse.
A third AFIP pathologist, Air Force Maj. Thomas Parsons, later publicly agreed with Cogswell and Hause that the head wound was suspicious. Parsons, who participated in an AFIP internal review of the case, also declared that no ruling on cause of death could be made without an autopsy.
While acknowledging that the hole did cut through the skull to Brown’s brain and had several characteristics of a gunshot, AFIP has maintained that an object from the plane, not a gunshot, caused it. AFIP and Col. William Gormley, the doctor who conducted the external examination of Brown’s corpse, insist there was no exit wound and no metal fragments inside the head, proving there was no gunshot.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski, head of AFIP’s forensic photography unit, was present when Gormley examined Brown’s body. She recently told WorldNetDaily that she did not believe a thorough examination took place.
Janoski also alleged that another AFIP staffer told her months later that original head x-rays showing metal fragments had been destroyed.
For Janoski and the three pathologists, life in the military has changed greatly since they went public.
Cogswell, for the first time in his 10-year career in the Air Force, has been given a negative performance evaluation. Cogswell received his annual rating late last month — more than six months late.
The evaluation states that Cogswell is “disruptive to the work environment with immature behavior.” He has been “unresponsive to counseling,” it continues, adding that he has used “inappropriate language” and worn “inappropriate dress.” Cogswell is even criticized for his manner of driving in the AFIP facility’s parking lot.
The belated report bears three signatures, including those of Armed Forces Chief Medical Examiner Jerry Spencer and AFIP Director Col. Michael Dickerson. The signatures are not dated.
Cogswell told WorldNetDaily the negative evaluation has ended the possibility of future promotion.
In previous annual performance reviews Cogswell shared with WorldNetDaily, he received nothing but sterling evaluations — including reviews signed by Dickerson and Gormley.
Just a year earlier, Dickerson and Gormley noted in an evaluation that Cogswell had been cited as “the number one forensic pathology consultant in the Department of Defense.”
The report also stated that Cogswell was “an extremely capable officer” who was given “the toughest assignments.”
“His professional acumen is incomparable,” the report continued, adding that Cogswell was “an exemplary officer and outstanding physician.”
In an evaluation in 1995 signed by Gormley and Dickerson, Cogswell was called AFIP’s “expert on gunshot wounds.”
Dickerson recently ordered Cogswell, Hause, Parsons and Janoski to cancel their planned attendance at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference earlier this month in San Francisco. The annual meeting is the most important of seminars attended by AFIP staff for professional development. All other AFIP staff were permitted to attend.
Just weeks after Janoski went public about the Brown case, she and her staff of three photographers were told to vacate their offices in the AFIP medical examiner’s facility in Rockville, Md. The photography unit was relocated to another AFIP office in Washington, D.C.
Chris Kelly, spokesman for AFIP, denied that any form of retribution has taken place.
He said Cogswell’s negative evaluation was “not a retaliation” since it covered a period before Cogswell made his comments on Brown.
Kelly confirmed that trips were canceled to the American Academy conference, but said the reason was “an internal matter for the institute.”
He said Janoski’s unit was transferred because “they have a lot of skills they need to keep up with,” and added that the unit would continue doing photography work for AFIP.
Cogswell told WorldNetDaily he is “absolutely certain” AFIP actions were caused by his comments on the Brown case. Janoski said those actions indicate the military is fearful about the controversy. Hause previously described the situation at AFIP as a “Salem atmosphere” referring to the witchcraft trials that took place in Salem, Mass.
Judicial Watch, a public interest legal group headed by former federal prosecutor Larry Klayman, represents two of the military officials involved in the case. Last week, Judicial Watch filed a petition with the three-judge panel that oversees independent counsels, asking that Daniel Pearson, who had been investigating Brown’s business dealings at the time of the crash, be given new jurisdiction to investigate the controversy involving the death itself.
Klayman said he plans to warn officials at AFIP and the Pentagon not to take punitive actions against any of the personnel who have spoken out.
“This campaign of fear and intimidation against these courageous military people could be construed as obstruction of justice and witness tampering,” he told WorldNetDaily.
“An independent counsel could prosecute senior officials for bothering with these whistle blowers,” he said, adding that retaliatory actions “will not stop the truth from coming out.”